November highs and the lows for the Minnesota Timberwolves

Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports /

The Minnesota Timberwolves capped off November on a high note with an impressive win over their postseason rivals, Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies, 109-101. The Minnesota Timberwolves won seven of their scheduled 15 games in November, creeping back to .500 with an 11-11 record. The basketball gods blessed the Timberwolves with a five-game winning streak, but it was ultimately snapped by the Charlotte Hornets on Friday, November 25th, with a  final score of 110-108.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Timberwolves could not hold onto a commanding lead against at Charlotte, North Carolina. And following that contest, the Minnesota Timberwolves regressed dramatically on defense,

Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch on their loss to the Hornets

Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch was confused at the performance and talked about it in a post-game press conference.

"“We just came out with not very much energy, and not very much focus, and not a lot of purpose. We haven’t done that for a long time. That was kinda our habit at the beginning of the season. Tonight, we just didn’t have it in the 3rd quarter for whatever reason.” -Per Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch in the post game press conference video above."

The Timberwolves consistently played at a high level with the determination to win games playing team ball in early November, leading to their season’s longest winning streak of five games. Within their winning streak, Minnesota knocked off All-Star point guard Darius Garland and the Cleveland Cavaliers, an energetic Orlando Magic team, Joel Embiid, and the Philadelphia 76ers, a short-handed Miami Heat team, and a hungry Indian Pacer Team.

These were all legitimate wins against playoff contenders, which the Timberwolves could build off. Sadly that did not happen. Instead, the Timberwolves lost three straight games; on top of that, losing Karl Anthony Towns in the process to a right calf sprain, which an MRI on Tuesday confirmed as Towns is set to miss as much as four to six weeks going forward.

Timberwolves trend halted (temporarily?)

For once this season, the Timberwolves were trending in the right direction, from the crisis of figuring out their new-found offense with 3x defensive player of the year Rudy Gobert.

Including their struggles in the backcourt with guards D’Angelo Russell and Anthony Edwards, so just like that, their world came crumbling down. However, the Wolves showed improvement on both ends of the court during this stint. Offensively, players started to buy into playing together and sacrificing for each other for the team’s sake.

"Anthony Edwards on PNR chemistry: “I gotta learn big Rudy still a little bit more. When he rolls, how long it takes him to get out of the screen, stuff like that.” Then I asked if he has ever played with a straight rolling big — even in AAU. Ant: “Nope. Nah. Not at all. Never.”"

The Timberwolves have a rating of 112.9 this season—credit to Rudy Gobert. However, the team needs to adjust to inserting the Frenchman. Playing with two twin towers in the front court is difficult but can be rewarding in time as the game slows down.

After the devastating 137-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, November 27, 2022, Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers had this to say

"“If we are going to play (big), we’ve got to dominate in the paint,”“If we’re going to play big, we’ve got to be big. Their big man was Draymond today.”“If we’re going to continue to play that way, we’ve got to find ways to get better at it. It’s early, but at the same time, it’s not. It’s getting to the point where a lot of games are coming by now, so we’ll just continue getting better.”"

Minnesota is primed for a relentless defense with a young active backcourt mixed with size in the paint, but players must commit to playing both sides of the ball and transition defense.

With the first two months of the season in the books, Minnesota will be without their Superstar BIG KAT for at least four weeks. A significant blow to a team still trying to find its identity during the season. That means that scoring leader Anthony Edwards and the rest of the team will have to step up in his absence.

Coach Finch on Edwards and the team coming together while Towns is sidelined.

The Timberwolves need to rally now, ideally around the remaining team leaders. In Coach Finch’s mind, that means getting Edwards to score more often.

In hindsight, Karl Anthony Towns’ injury could have been worse; non-contact injuries are always suspicious. This injury couldn’t have come at the worst time. The Timberwolves were starting to gain momentum and find themselves. As the basketball gods giveth, they taketh away. Now Finch and Wolves are challenged with the task of playing without their primary player.

The good thing is, it’s early, and the Timberwolves have plenty of time for trial and error. However, losses add up, especially when you’re playing in the Western Conference. So hopefully, Towns will be able to return sooner rather than later.

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